My friend, the Goncourt laureate and one of the finest spokesperson for Afghanistan, Atiq Rahimi, wrote an essay for Vanity Fair October 2011, about Time.
The tone may sound anecdotal and light for his Vanity Fair audience but the author did sound profound and philosophical as well. A proof that a vignette (or a blog) can sometimes carry its weight as it has done in this instance.
The underpinning reasoning of the essay is cultural relativism. In Afghanistan, Time is valued and respected at a different rythm than elsewhere. Thus, the Afghan thinker has a different tempo and different expectations than his Western counterpart.
"I have been observing through the hole between two stones for ten years and my expectations and my patience are extensive" I paraphrase the Afghan thinker in Atiq Rahimi's anecdote. On the other hand, the Western thinker in that story, impulsive and in search of easy gratification, steals a glance and in his impatience abandons the observation. For the Western thinker has been educated to value time as precious and fleeting. On the other hand, the Afghan thinker believes time is generous, extensive, non-perishable.
I have been raised in an educational system where time is compartimentalized, routinized, made precious. My Levantine mercantile culture has nurtured me to believe that time must be made productive. My family culture and perhaps my own temperament have made me believe that time would be on my side if I respected it, if I thought with efficiency and handled Time with brio.
Language has influenced me. I have been instructed "not to waste time" in English, further increasing the value of a limited Time. In French, the same idea "perdre son temps" translates literally as "loosing time". In the country of Marcel Proust, Time is fleeting and the lost Time generates much nostalgia and melancholy.
In contrast, as a yoga adept, I have learned to live in the present and I strive to experience a sense of zen. I always conjugate Time in the present tense, only throw a glance at the past and plan for the future by building a steady and strong present or foundation.
Every morning is a January First and every moment is an opportunity to seize!